The sweet smell of fermenting fruit fills the streets around the modest Havana home where Orestes Estevez and his family fill glass jugs with grapes, ginger, and hibiscus, then slip a condom over each glass neck to start the unusual process of winemaking in a land famed for rum. From origins as an illicit backyard still, Cuba's "El Canal" winery has become a flourishing business that annually produces thousands of gallons of wine flavored with guava, watercress, and beets, the AP reports. Estevez, 65, has made wine for decades. After a career in the military and security services he legalized his business and opened a tiny winery in 2000 as communist Cuba took the first steps toward allowing private enterprise. Today, Estevez, his wife, son and an assistant tend to 300 jugs containing five gallons of wine apiece. The main ingredient is Cuban grapes, but added flavors include tropical fruits and vegetables of virtually every variety.
At the winery, hundreds of bottles are capped with condoms that slowly inflate as the fruity mix ferments and produces gases. When the fermentation is over and there are no more gases, the condom stops inflating and falls, and the wine is ready for bottling. "Putting a condom on a bottle is just like with a man," Estevez said. "It stands up, the wine is ready, and then the process is completed." All told, it takes a month to 45 days to produce a jar of wine. Estevez's product is bottled and sold for consumption in homes and restaurants, with sales at an average of 50 bottles a day for 10 Cuban pesos (40 cents) apiece. It's an accessible pleasure for Cubans who earn an average of $25 a month and can't afford imported wine that sells for at least half of that, and often many times more, in state-run liquor stores. Click for more, including other weird uses for condoms in Cuba. (Read more Cuba stories.)